Charlotte hastily took the letter: it contained these words
As to-morrow is the anniversary of the happy day that gave my beloved girl to the anxious wishes of a maternal heart, I have requested your governess to let you come home and spend it with us; and as I know you to be a good, affectionate child, and make it your study to improve in those branches of education which you know will give most pleasure to your delighted parents, as a reward for your diligence and attention, I have prepared an agreeable surprise for your reception. Your grandfather, eager to embrace the darling of his aged heart, will come in the chaise for you; so hold yourself in readiness to attend him by nine oclock. Your dear father joins in every tender wish for your health and future felicity which warms the heart of my dear Charlottes affectionate mother.
You do right, said Madame Du Pont, to ask the assistance of Heaven that you may continue to deserve their love. Continue, my dear Charlotte, in the course you have ever pursued, and you will insure at once their happiness and your own.
Oh! cried Charlotte, as her governess left her, I have forfeited both forever! Yet let me reflect:the irrevocable step is not yet taken: it is not too late to recede from the brink of a precipice from which I can only behold the dark abyss of ruin, shame and remorse!
She arose from her seat, and flew to the apartment of La Rue. Oh, mademoiselle! said she, I am snatched by a miracle from destruction! This letter has saved me: it has opened my eyes to the folly I was so near committing. I will not go, mademoiselle; I will not wound the hearts of those dear parents who make my happiness the whole study of their lives.
Well, said mademoiselle, do as you please, miss; but pray understand that my resolution is taken, and it is not in your power to alter it. I shall meet the gentlemen at the appointed hour, and shall not be surprised at any outrage which Montraville may commit when he finds himself disappointed. Indeed, I should not be astonished was [sic] he to come immediately here and reproach you for your instability in the hearing of the whole school: and what will be the consequence? You will bear the odium of having formed the resolution of eloping, and every girl of spirit will laugh at your want of fortitude to put it in execution, while prudes and fools will load you with reproach and contempt. You will have lost the confidence of your parents, incurred their anger and the scoffs of the world; and what fruit do you expect to reap from this piece of heroism, (for such, no doubt, you think it is)? You will have the pleasure to reflect that you have deceived the man who adores you, and whom, in your heart, you prefer to all other men, and that you are separated from him forever.
This eloquent harangue was given with such volubility that Charlotte could not find an opportunity to interrupt her or to offer a single word till the whole was finished, and then found her ideas so confused that she knew not what to say.
At length she determined that she would go with mademoiselle to the place of assignation, convince Montraville of the necessity of adhering to the resolution of remaining behind, assure him of her affection, and bid him adieu.
Charlotte formed this plan in her mind, and exulted in the certainty of its success. How shall I rejoice, said she, in this triumph of reason over inclination; and when in the arms of my affectionate parents, lift up my soul in gratitude to Heaven as I look back on the dangers I have escaped!
The hour of assignation arrived: mademoiselle put what money and valuables she possessed in her pocket, and advised Charlotte to do the same; but she refused; my resolution is fixed; said she; I will sacrifice love to duty.
It would be useless to repeat the conversation that here ensued; suffice it to say, that Montraville used every argument that had formerly been successful, Charlottes resolution began to waver, and he drew her almost imperceptibly toward the chaise.